Whether you’re looking for miles of pavement, gravel, or singletrack, this European destination has quietly become a hotbed for serious cycling culture. Welcome to Girona, Spain!
Ask a pro cyclist where they’ll train and live in the offseason, and chances are you’ll hear “Girona, Spain,” a fair share.
The city, about 90 minutes from Barcelona, isn’t just known for its amazing historical buildings and tourist-friendly atmosphere. It has some of the best cyclist amenities and perfect roads and trails for every riding style. Best of all, you won’t feel like you’re in a corny training camp setting.
If you’re looking for a spot where wine is $1.50 per glass and cafe stops are a guaranteed part of any ride, aim for Girona. You won’t be disappointed.
Girona, Spain: Cycling Heaven
Planning Your Trip
Plan your trip for the offseason. Booking in late fall can net you round-trip tickets for under $300 for a February training camp. Skip hotels and look for Airbnbs, near or in Old Town if you can. By March, tourists begin to infiltrate the city, and roads become more crowded as prices skyrocket. Skip it entirely in the summer if you don’t like crowded areas or hot days, but the offseason (around October through mid-March) is peak cycling time.
How to get there: There’s an airport in Girona, but flying into Barcelona and taking a bus is quite easy. Parking in the city isn’t great, so try to go sans car if possible. The bus line doesn’t show up on Google Maps, so you’ll have to dig a bit to book your ticket. But Sagales has a Barcelona Airport-Girona bus that’s actually affordable and easy.
What to pack: Weather in Girona is mostly mild — expect temps around the 60s Fahrenheit in February — but can fluctuate. A recent trip in February saw temps swing from 35 to 85 degrees F, so bring short-sleeve jerseys, jackets, and leg warmers. Opt for a burlier tire if you’re bringing a road bike so you can take advantage of gravel when it comes up.
BYOB(ike)? If you don’t mind flying with a bike, feel free to bring yours. But bike rentals of all types abound in the city at reasonable prices. Bike Breaks Girona Cycle Centre is one of the easiest spots to score a midprice rental, and the quality of service is solid.
Where to Ride Bike in Girona, Spain
For roadies: Climbs here are very nearly limitless and accommodate an array of suffering. Just outside of town, you’ll find steep ascents like Rocacorba and slow, gradual climbs like Sant Hilari Sacalm. Getting out of Girona takes a few minutes, but once you do, the roads are perfect for pedaling and traffic is generally respectful of bikes.
I rode for 2 weeks with a 15-person peloton, and only one driver honked their horn at us aggressively. And countless others “Allez”-ed us up climbs. Els Angels, the classic climb just outside of the city, is a must. But you can’t beat heading out to the coast to ride on the coastal “highway” along the Mediterranean Sea. Enjoy the fantastic climbs, descents, and views, but be aware that the roads are often very slick. Exercise caution on fast descents.
For MTBers: Head to Banyoles, just a few miles from Girona. Miles and miles of trail systems wind through the country, some heading right up (and down!) Rocacorba. In February, one of the first UCI races of the season takes place downtown and heads into the trail network there. So as you roll around, don’t be shocked if you spot Anton Cooper session-ing a technical section.
The trails directly outside of town, just past the cathedral, are solid singletrack despite being a literal stone’s throw from the Old Town section of Girona and the university. You can stick to relatively flat sections, but you’ll still climb a bit. Or you can aim for trails that will bring you to the top of Els Angels without ever hitting the pavement. It’s perfect if you’re riding with roadies who prefer to take the road up!
Pro tip: Expect a lot of loam — even trail running netted a shoe full of dirt.
For gravel grinders: Renting gravel-friendly bikes has never been easier. In fact, the default rental at Bike Breaks Girona is now a disc-brake 28c-tire Cannondale that can rip up and down steep gravel at 50 psi. And there are hundreds of miles of solid gravel roads to explore minutes from town, plus tons of bike path in and around the city.
Actually, the backside of Els Angels provides a must-ride for gravel seekers. And the gravel roads up are beautiful! Rocacorba also has gravel alternate routes, though they are admittedly a bit more singletrack-style. Remember to look for great gravel loops on Strava — because gravel grinding still isn’t as developed in Europe as it is in the U.S.
For triathletes: Banyoles is also a hotbed for triathlete culture thanks to a huge lake that’s ideal for open-water swimming. Because of its proximity to Banyoles and great swimming, Girona has become popular with the swim-bike-run crowd as well. And triathletes can often be found hopping into group rides or jumping into the dozens of running races that are run in town year-round.
Training for a tri? Bring a bike that’s good for climbing, not just TT-ing. You’ll thank yourself later; there are relatively few flat rides available in the area. Hit Banyoles Lake for a swim, then do a ride up the mountain and into Olot for lunch. It’s a lot of climbing — but well worth it.
Girona, Spain: What to Do Out of the Saddle
Play “spot the pros”! During a 2-week stay, you may run into Marianne Vos, Olympic gold medalist and 12-time world champion, crushing hill repeats on Rocacorba. Or you might see three-time world champion Wout Van Aert prepping for Classics season. Oh, and you might have Trek-Segafredo’s Tayler Wiles blow past you on a recovery ride, or spot Sam Gazes casually bunnyhopping curbs prepping for the first mountain bike race of the season. Not to name-drop or anything.
Enjoy the cycling community. La Fabrica, Espresso Mafia, Coffee + Greens, and Federal are all hotspot coffeeshops for cyclists. And all four sit right in the heart of Old Town, nestled into weird little corners of cobblestones. Take my word for it: You might have to do a bit of wandering around to bump into Federal or La Fabrica in particular!
Former World Tour racer Christian Myer and his wife, Amber, own Espresso Mafia and La Fabrica, where Myer’s cycling history is showcased on the walls. Coffee + Greens is the newest of the bunch and has become a favorite spot for riders.
Don’t forget the booze! Let’s be honest, most of you reading this are also wondering where the wine and beer list is. The good news is that while Girona is a tourist mecca, it’s actually pretty darn affordable. Most places have house wines for under $1.50 per glass, or beers for under $3. And the food is relatively inexpensive, too. Plus, the more miles you pedal, the cheaper the pastries get. And because bakeries pop up on every street, there’s even more motivation to keep riding!